Rev. Jackie Clement—September 2004
MFC Liaison to Candidates Report
I know from my own experience of appearing before the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) that it is a process cloaked in myth and mystery, not of their making but growing out of our own anxiety. Seeing the Committee evaporated many of the myths for me, but having now sat with them through the preparation, interviews and discussions I hope I can dispel some of the myths for you, too.
The Committee is truly rooting for the candidates. They are compassionate and collegial, and will do whatever they can to help you through this important and nerve-wracking experience. They know that many (most? all?) of us are nervous to at least some degree, and sincerely try to create an atmosphere that will ease the tension. They worry about the height and placement of the pulpit and whether fresh water is available. They provide chalice and flowers and an altar covering to create a welcoming atmosphere. They do not scowl or sit stone-faced through the sermon as I had heard so many times during my seminary years. The members are concerned with your well-being, just as they are tasked with looking after the well-being of our ministry.
The MFC would like to know that you have a good foundation in the areas of competence, but are not looking to trip you up on minutiae. If you do not know the answer to a question, you might simply say so. If you know where you might find the answer all the better, but repeating memorized data is not the point of the interview. They are far more interested in your presence, self-awareness and self-presentation. I therefore offer these words of advice.
Before the interview prepare your packet carefully and know its contents. I was surprised in my own interview by the number of questions drawn directly from my packet, my experiences and evaluations. This continued to be true for the interviews I witnessed. Know the material in your packet, understand why you wrote what you did and why others wrote what they did, and be able to discuss it. In your paperwork and during the interview be open and honest. Know yourself. Be able to acknowledge your gifts and not hide from your challenges. If you have certain reactions to stress (like forgetting every fact you ever learned!), you can share that with the Committee. They will not fault you for being nervous, but will applaud your self-awareness. Monitor how you are feeling during the interview and if you feel there is something the Committee should know, share it with them. Acknowledge where you are physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Remember you are there to show them a potential minister. The members of the MFC work harder than just about anyone I have seen. Whatever you can do to make them comfortable, as they try to make you comfortable, will reflect well on your ministerial skills. Remember in writing your sermon that they are people with their own joys and sorrows and triumphs and struggles. Try to be aware of the cues they present you about whether your answers are too long, too short or just right. Remember that this is a team process, not an adversarial one.
I wish you all the best in your interview. It is an important moment in our ministerial preparation, part of the whole, not an end in itself. May you gain from it all that you can.